Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Bad Habits

I’m reading a book in Borders, minding my own business, until the conversation nearby became too compelling. The bloke beside me was freshly single, and his female companion was trying to lure him with an offer to make him dinner; but he’s a hard man to please…

Her: “How about a nice risotto?”

Him: “I don’t eat pasta or rice or bread. Carbohydrates take 12 hours to break down in the body.”

Her: “How about a nice steak?”

Him: “I don’t eat red meat…”

Her: “Chicken?”

Him: “…or poultry…”

They settled on a nice salad, with no beans, and no booze; these upset his delicate constitution. I heard all about his pescetarianism, his lactose intolerance, and his wild forays into veganism. He finished his tirade with, “I’m very careful about what I put into my body.” Then he excused himself and went outside for a cigarette…

What are some of your bad habits – especially those quirky, hypocritical, dare I say non-skeptical ones?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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  1. Actually, as a big sports fan, I have developed rituals ( not habits ), such as sitting in a given room or chair if something postive is happening for my team. Of course this is a ludicrous thing to do … wait … I have to change seats … the umps just blew a call against my guys.

  2. I sometimes use St. John’s Wort as a mood lifter. I really won’t defend the practice if pressed, I can allow myself one habit free of skepticism.

  3. I evaluate myself far too critically. I manage to sabotage pretty much any creative project I consider before it even gets off the ground, because I convince myself that it will suck, and I shouldn’t bother.

  4. @Merkuto: Studies have shown SJW to be effective in mild to moderate depression. It also effects how fast the liver metabolizes stuff like certain medicines, though, so you should either check out interactions or just stop taking it if you take a prescription med for anything.

  5. I’m just having a lot of trouble understanding the conversation quoted in the post. Not the convo itself, you understand, but why the girl was putting up with this a**hole. Or did she slip out the back when he was out front with his weed?

    I take vitamins – I know some studies say they’re not effective in pill form, but I can’t help myself.

  6. I take garlic and horseradish pills when I wake up with sinus caused by too much alcohol the previous night. (Didn’t work yesterday, still felt shite all day.)

  7. The cigarette break made a hell of a punchline. Very careful about what he put in his body. Ha! What a chucklehead.

    When it comes to food, at least, the only vaguely woo product I use is Tazo tea. Organic Chai to be specific. I don’t care for the fact that it’s organic, or that their marketing appeals to the pseudo-hip new age baby boomers, but the tea is damn good. All the other masala chais I’ve tasted were too weak for my palate.

  8. I’m another one that takes vitamin pills even though they don’t really work. And fake sugar. That’s why I have headaches, insomnia, cancer, lupus, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, memory loss, panic attacks, shooting leg pains, vertigo, slurred speech and probably a 100 other things.

  9. There was an excellent article I ran across in the Utne Reader once that described “orthorexia” – the tendency to become fixated on eating rules and taboos. I bet Supersense theory will shed some light on this over time. The above story also reminded me of the time once in a coffee shop, when I was listening to a young woman’s story about all the care and expense she was taking to have the mercury fillings removed from her teeth. And then out she went for her cigarette! (For fairness’s sake I have to admit to having smoked for a long time *and* to having converted to Catholicism as an adult, so I’ve been a fool more than few times in my life. And yes, I am a happy apostate and pastafarian now).

  10. Just as a general comment because I keep hearing people say they feel guilty doing X, Y, or Z because it makes them feel better even if they know it doesn’t ‘work’:

    That isn’t pseudoscientific woo, that’s doing something that makes you feel better -.-

    As long as you don’t think your cup of tea or somesuch ritual is curing cancer, I don’t think there’s anything anti-skeptic about doing something that makes you feel better. The placebo effect is a measurable effect.

  11. Despite for the most part eating healthy foods, small meat portions, whole grains, lots of fruits & veggies, moderation is my motto. I consume far too much HFCS filled caffeinated soda. Otherwise I do pretty good, I don’t smoke, drink alcohol, etc.

  12. welllll..not sure if this qualifies as a bad habit… but its def somewhat quirky…I occ find myself drinking vodka from an unmarked water bottle while out and about with friends in public places, like..the zoo, the aquarium, the museum of science and industry, the bowling alley… etc… always makes for a good excursion … haha its kinda like.. well f* getting drunk at the bars… WAY cooler (aka nerdy) to party hardy at the museams.

  13. hmmm well i gotta say over indulging in tech (my computer setup is insane) and mountain dew, the cans are now the main decoration of my room.

    Oh and first time poster :D, James Fox is my dad and introduced me to this site, JREF and the SGU podcast, happy fathers day dad!!!

  14. @Rebelduck: Ok, your mum will be home in a couple hours and you really should tidy up your room. ;)

    No non-skeptical habits I can think of. My habits tend to revolve around what I find pleasure or interest in.

    And Happy Fathers Day to all the dads out there!! And I’m chuffed (happy) to have my skeptical son hanging out with me on Skepchick!! :)

  15. The 12 year old boy part of my brain desperately seeks sasquatches whenever we’re driving through a wilder-looking place. Oh how I wish we’d all be wrong, and there really was a 12 foot ape hiding in rural back woods revealing itself only to the severely red-necked.

  16. @Brian’s A Wild Downer: When I was fundie, I was conflicted about my porn consumption (obviously), and after I gave up belief in god I was influenced by a strain of feminism that painted all porn with an anti-woman brush, so I was still conflicted. I have since applied my skeptical powers to this problem, determined that the stuff I like tends to celebrate mutual pleasure, and basically seen that my watching porn is a healthy part of sexuality.

    OTOH, I do most of it on the Internet, so it may be a copyright violation. Is that a bad habit?

  17. …also, I have a theory that actually the more tortured an animal is the better it actually tastes. This is based only on the fact that I really enjoy veal, so maybe not the best theory, but I’m violating all my meals with broomhandles first just to be safe.

  18. I’m another vitamin user. Probably not useful since I eat a balanced diet. Also, I sometimes find myself hoping for outcomes to come about in a certain way even though my hopes can have no effect on them.

  19. @sporefrog:

    That isn’t pseudoscientific woo, that’s doing something that makes you feel better -.-

    No, it’s doing something that makes you think you feel better. That’s why it’s called a placebo effect.

    The harm isn’t in the comfort of the effect itself: yes studies show it does work to ease pain and make things like controlling nausea, tiredness, or anxiety easier. The problem lies in both when the placebo effect wears off (as it always does) and sole reliance in the effector as a cure in lieu of necessary treatments.

    Are daily multiple vitamins going to hurt you? Most likely, no. Even if you eat a balanced diet, a little extra nutrients aren’t going to bother you. But, people can go overboard with taking them.

    The danger comes in reliance in such things to the point where common sense would dictate getting professional treatment. Such as: controlling the severity of a cough with teas, zinc lozenges, or massive vitamin C intake; rather than going to a doctor for a cough that’s gone on for more than two weeks.

    This episode of Skeptiod makes a better argument than I can in this short space. Please take time to check it out:

  20. Certainly, alcohol and possibly some other substances. Also procrastination…I’d rather read Skepchick than write a thesis.

    Seriously, the guy at Borders—-what was his problem? If a girl offers to make me dinner, I’m not going to nitpick or complain. I’m showing up for dinner. Why is he so delicate? :)

  21. I’m also trying to break my habit of arguing politics with hardcore conservatives….it’s extremely pointless and frustrating.

  22. Am I the only one who interprets this exchange as ***YOUR FRIEND HAS AN EATING DISORDER***?

    Also to answer the question, I wear my underwear in a specific order because it’s important… if I wear my Wednesday/Thursday (3rd or 4th tier) undies on Monday or Friday (1st tier days), I can’t concentrate on a damn thing. I also have all-purpose undies (2nd tier) that I can wear any day.

    Also, I can’t drink good wine during the week. Not that I drink “bad” wine… but the GOOD stuff is for Fri-Sun only.

  23. @Elyse: These days, that doesn’t constitute an eating disorder. It constitutes extreme self-absorption.

    Now if he ate all that and then stuck his finger down his throat, that would be an eating disorder. This scenario just indicates he’s a dick.

  24. Have the skepchicks ever had a discussion about the health effects of consuming alcoholic beverages? :P


    I imagine it comes down to what effect you think you’re having, as I said, though maybe cancer was too extreme of an example. I sometimes drink tea when I have a sore throat because it feels better, not because I believe it has any anti-viral properties. I agree with you that if people are going to go overboard, then that’s a problem. I don’t think somebody taking a multi-vitamin per day who knows the risks of consuming the whole bottle should be worrying.

    In another related vein, wearing your favorite shirt might make you less nervous during a talk. That’s not woo, that’s psychology ^_^

    No, it’s doing something that makes you think you feel better. That’s why it’s called a placebo effect.

    From the research I’ve read, the evidence for that position is not at all conclusive. There are certainly cases where it is, like in the case of a pathogenic illnes. However, there is data that show measurably physiological effects from placebos for certain conditions, which I believe

    Richard Dawkins has posited an evolutionary explanation for such an effect. In terms of brain chemistry, this possibility makes sense, as there are many biochemical pathways for neurotransmitter or other chemicals to have a physiological effect.

  25. Hah, cat hit the keyboard before I was done. Well you get the general idea. I think that’s the 5th butchered post I’ve submitted in like three days.

  26. That’s not woo, that’s psychology

    Nobody said it wasn’t psychology. You’re mis-reading again. This is the same issue you had from previous posts.

    From the research I’ve read, the evidence for that position is not at all conclusive. There are certainly cases where it is, like in the case of a pathogenic illnes. However, there is data that show measurably physiological effects from placebos for certain conditions, which I believe.

    You might want to check out the link I sent you earlier, plus the one below:

    More than likely, any study that shows actual physiological effects may not have ruled out the simple fact that the original physical problem in itself was affected by the patient’s mental state (by depression, mourning, anger, etc.). These are hard to see in results after the fact, that’s why it can seem inconclusive. Plus the number of people giving positive results tends to be around half or less for most of these studies; not much better than a coin toss. Also the increases, while themselves measurable, are also easily affected by changes in the patient’s mental state; this can quickly put such treatments in jeopardy. This makes it a very ethically uneasy position to be in for a physician who prescribes a known placebo.

    No one (especially me) is going to discount the comfort given by the placebo effect in general, but looking to it as a definite cure in some physical issues can be just as dangerous as any woo-woo.

  27. I drink way, way too much Dr Pepper.
    As for vitamins, they either work or have one hell of a placebo effect on me – I give blood regularly and when I’ve remembered to take my vitamins, my iron is nice and high. When I’ve forgotten, it’s lower, sometimes to the point that I can’t give. It may not be a major effect but it’s something.

  28. @MiddleMan:

    Nobody said it wasn’t psychology. You’re mis-reading again. This is the same issue you had from previous posts..

    I think we’re both just talking past each other and are interpreting meaning in each other’s statements that is not there. I never said nobody said it wasn’t psychology. I was merely pointing out an interesting instance where some slap-happy skeptic might say “woo!” when I think to do so would be making too much about nothing. This was my only point.

    The digression about placebos is an interesting one, and one that I do not know the answer to. I’ll read your link, but I think there just is not enough data to say “placebos under all circumstances merely make you think you have improved, but it’s just in your head.” It is not beyond the realm of possibility for us to have some influence on the way our bodies heal one way or another.

    I agree with your final sentiment that it would be foolish to rely on a placebo in those circumstances, instead of real medical treatment.

    Vitamins can replace real nutrient deficiencies, such as in your case with iron. Another alternative would be simply eating foods with more iron in them :P

  29. The bloke in Border’s was probably not interested, IMHO, and just making excuses so as not to get entangled again.

    @Indigo and others, Vitamin C increases iron absorption which is a good thing unless like me you have one of the common genes for haemochromatosis, present in about 10% of Caucasians.

    Can cite hard mainstream literature if required, but Wikipedia gives a good outline.

    Could go further but should note, iron metabolism is poorly understood.

  30. @sporefrog: OK, fair enough. Due to stomach issues keeping me up, I was in a foul mood last night and possibly spoke out-of-line. (I guess that proves that the physical health can affect the mental. Somewhat in reverse of our discussion, eh?)

    Please do check out the links I posted. It’s a lot more complex than even I thought.

  31. @sethmanapio: *chuckle* Point taken, although it’s slightly different in the sense that this is a failure of available time, not of confidence.

    I’m normally torpedoing projects solely because I get wrapped up in criticizing it before I even get started. Here, I don’t see any issues with the idea, just that there’s no way I could give it the attention it needs while I’m trying to cram ALL THE LAW into my head at once. I didn’t think it would be fair to say “sure, let’s give it a go,” knowing that I wouldn’t be able to do my share of the work.

  32. @Chakolate:

    Anorexia isn’t an eating disorder anymore? Because I thought it still was. And that exchange sounds pretty typical of a person who has severe food issues. Restricting types of foods they eat under the guise of “healthier eating”. Obsessing over food. Micromanaging their diet. Smoking to reduce hunger.Self-absorption. I certainly could be wrong, but it sounds to me like this guy has issues with food and control.

  33. I don’t sleep enough, and it makes me less patient. Also, I default at contrarianism – despite the fact that this is less rational than objectively weighing the value of group experience/preference.

  34. If I quit drinking coffee, the entire coffee industry would collapse overnight.

    Overeating when I feel bad…especially carbs. I’m a carbivore.

    I’m still trying to remember that the world is not black/white, but infinite shades of gray.

  35. I drink way too much pepsi, though that’s a problem someone else is about to solve for me.

    Back in college, I used to have to the opposite conversations with pretty ladies, and not so pretty men, trying to convert me to vegitarianism. Aand it was the same conversation every time.

    Them: I’ll make you some of my spinach quiche, and you’ll never have to eat meat again.

    Me: Thanks, but I really don’t like spinach.

    Them: But it’s spinach quiche.

    Me: Yeah, well, I hate spinach, and I’m not much of a cheese eater, so I don’t care for quiche, either.

    Them: But it’s spinach quiche!

    My: But I hate spinach.

    Them: But it’s spinach quiche!

    From San Diego to Humboldt, it was always spinach quiche.

  36. @faith: I’ve been researching ACoA and they are also use a 12-step program. I had the same reaction you had to programs like that.

    I’ll probably do the same thing you are: take what works.

  37. Okay, here’s a woo-filled bad habit: I have managed to convince myself that I am precognitive.

    The evidence thus far: On a couple dozen separate occasions in the last three years, I have had a sudden flash of insight that something was going to happen, and then that thing happened. These are not necessarily things I hoped would happen. I just knew that whatever it was, it was going to happen.

    Examples: Sitting at home doing nothing, having the sudden insight that one of my parents or siblings had just dialed my number, then picking up the phone and identifying the person before the first ring and without caller ID. None of these occasions was holiday- or birthday-related, nor was I thinking of the person at the time. (In one case, it was a sibling I had not spoken to or thought about in years. But when I thought, “Linda is calling me” and picked up the phone, there she was.)

    Driving in to work and hearing the details of a radio contest, and knowing I would win. Not that I wanted to win — it wasn’t anything I was particularly interested in — but that I would win. Definitively. A week later when the PR lady from the station called she was surprised that I wasn’t surprised!

    Driving to the Cubs-Astros game in Milwaukee last September and suddenly saying out loud, “Zambrano’s going to pitch a no-hitter today.” My husband laughed. Big Z had just come off two poor outings and a stint on the DL, and the Astros were one of the hottest teams in baseball. But by the end of the game, we were both freaked out. Happy, but freaked out.

    Those are just a few examples out of many. I mean it. MANY. Intellectually, I know that this is not really happening. It can’t be. But it is very weird. Especially when I have negative flashes of insight that also come to pass. And negative flashes of insight that have not yet come to pass, but which scare the living daylights out of me.

    How about that for a woo-filled bad habit? :-)

  38. @Elyse: Hmm. I see your point.

    Well, whether he’s anorexic or just an a-hole, I’m glad it wasn’t you that was having that conversation with him. :-)

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